“Sitting is the New Smoking”

This past year I’ve noticed “sitting is the new smoking of our generation” is a popular topic trending in the media. As we all have heard, sedentary behavior, such as sitting for extended periods of time is negatively detrimental to both physical and mental health. Sedentary behavior increases the risks of all-cause mortality, metabolic syndrome, cardio-metabolic biomarkers, triglycerides, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and cancer. In addition, it is also negatively associated with mental health and psychosocial well-being (Owen, et al., 2010; Steinberg, et al., 2014). Despite the widely acknowledged health detriments associated with sedentary behavior, many of us, including myself, are still guilty of sitting most of our day!

While sitting at my desk for 5 consecutive hours I realized that the majority of my day was spent seated. We spend the majority of our days sitting during the morning commute, sitting at our work desk, sitting during our lunch break, sitting during our evening commute and finally finishing off the day sitting on our couch watching TV.

Of course we take breaks, go for a stroll, stretch, workout, etc., but when there is a massive pile of work on your desk, many of us are likely to forget these important breaks. Is there a way we can still get our work done but avoid being seated the entire time?

The modern standing desks are one method that allows one to work while standing to avoid being seating the entire day. Before we run to the mall to purchase these, let’s consider the risks and benefits of standing desks. Are they a good alternative to sitting desks? Should they be used in combination with sitting desks? Are they comfortable? Do they have to be set up individually for each person?


Research from The Take-A-Stand Project (2011) has shown that when installed within the workplace, standing desks can significantly reduce sitting time. In addition to increasing non-sitting time, they were effective in reducing upper back and neck pain, and improving mood states within a 2-week period (Pronk, et al., 2011). MacEwan, et al. (2014) also noted the psychological well-being associated with increased standing and little impact on work performance was indicated. Individuals using standing desks had a significant increase in caloric expenditure while compared to sitting desks (Reiff, 2012). These desks are gaining acceptance and popularity within workplaces due to the health benefits associated with increased standing time (MacEwan, 2014).

            In summary, research shows that these desks increase calorie expenditure, reduce postural discomforts due to prolonged sitting and improve mood, all the while having little impact on your productivity level.


Personal experiences of individuals using standing desks revealed that these desks are hard on the feet. Standing for extended periods of time can cause feet soreness, especially if you are standing for the entire workday. Additionally, standing for an expected period of time also causes fatigue (Mullis, 2012).  It is also important to set up these desks appropriately for each user to ensure they are at the appropriate height and will not cause other problems in the upper extremities. 

In conclusion, although these standing desks are a great solution to our problem of sitting for too long, they need to be used with caution. It may not be feasible to stand for a 10-hour work-day, nor is it comfortable to do so. It is best to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day. It is also very important to consider your physical restrictions. If you have back or foot problems, this standing desk may not be the best option. It is important to consider both the risks and benefits before making the decision to incorporate the standing desk within your workplace. Consider an ergonomic assessment  with an occupational therapist to assess what workstation is best for you!

We would love to hear your thoughts about these new trendy desks. If you have used them, what were your personal experiences? Would you recommend them? Why or why not? 



  1. MacEwen, B., T., MacDonald, D, J., Burr, J. F. (2015). A systematic review of standing and treadmill desks in the workplace. Prev Med., 70, 50-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.11.011.
  2. Mullis, G. (2012). What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Standing Desks? Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2012/07/16/what-are-the-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-standing-desks/
  3. Owen, N., Genevieve, H. N., Mathews, C. E., Dunstan, D. W. (2010). Too Much Sitting: The Population-Health Science of Sedentary Behavior. Exerc Sport Sci., 38(3), 105-113.
  4. Pronk, N. P., Katz, A. S., Lowry, M., Payfer, J.R.(2011). Reducing occupational sitting time and improving worker health: the Take-a-Stand Project. Prev Chronic Dis, 9:110323. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10. 5888.pcd9.110323
  5. Reiff, C., Marlatt, K., Dengel, D. R. (2012). Difference in caloric expenditure in sitting versus standing desks. J Phys Act Health, 9(7), 1009-11.
  6. Steinberg, S. I., Sammel, M. D., Harel, B. T., Schembri, A., Policastro, C., Bogner, H. R., Negash, S., & Arnold, S. E. (2014). Exercise, Sedentary Pastimes, and Cognitive Performance in Healthy Older Adults. American journal of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, 30(3), 290-298. doi: 1533317514545615.